Report From T. Don Hutto Forum

Posted in Commentary, Good Stuff, Immigration, T. Don Hutto, Taylor, Williamson County at 12:14 pm by wcnews

(Received via email from Immigration Reform Effort (IRE) founder MaryEllen Kersch).

Pretty good crowd, actually, per everyone’s assessment. Reporters from KLBJ, Taylor, and the Sun were present.

A very important opening statement was made by Barbara Hines, who has practiced immigration law for many, many years (her words); she said she had never seen anything as upsetting as what she saw at TDH when she first visited there, before the lawsuit she and the ACLU undertook on behalf of some prisoners. While it has improved since that settlement, she says it is still inappropriate for us to be putting families in prison for infractions comparable to running a stop sign.

The panelists were outstanding-very low-key and non-inflammatory. Jose Orta, as usual, articulated the human side wonderfully. One very poignant piece of info that he shared is that the prison is sited on property originally owned by immigrants in the early 20th century. They gave it to the Church, it was taken over by the Diocese and sold to the state and became the site of T Don Hutto-originally a medium security prison.

The issue of oversight and assurance of humane treatment for the families held at T Don Hutto was rather alarming. This prison is not subject to effective oversight and rules that are written to provide standards are only recommendations and carry no enforcement weight. This is a new thing in this country, this imprisoning immigrants awaiting dispensation of applications for amnesty and residency status and takes, in some cases, nearly a year. That time is spent in jail by these immigrants who frequently end up becoming citizens of our country.

Bob Libal presented information relating to the so-called economic gain of a community by having a prison located within its boundaries and that is a no-gainer; communities where prisons locate find other (less controversial) economic development will go up the road rather than be sited in a community with a prison. So, long term, Taylor probably had created a detriment by having that prison there. Certainly, T Don Hutto, with its world-renown reputation of shame, has done nothing to enhance Taylor’s position for economic growth with “clean” development.

Wayne Krause related that T Don Hutto exists, not to secure our borders, not to protect our citizens, not to assure these applicants show up for their hearings (there are effective alternatives to achieving those goals), but for one prime purpose. MONEY. There is big money in this game. CCA makes a mint, they shave a portion off the top and give it to the county. So the rest is all baloney. No matter how you slice it.

Asked what citizens can do to correct the situation of families-who are, after all,-charged with no crimes (they are certainly demonized by being incorrectly termed “illegal aliens,” as Barbara Hines pointed out), all the panelists, stressed that WCCC refusal to renew the contract with ICE and CCA at year’s end would send a very strong signal that this type of detention is not acceptable. That would serve to put the brakes on the intended expansion of the T Don Hutto model.

Our group came into being to make this forum happen; one final detail before we return to “individual” opponents will be to forward to the absent invitees pertinent questions for their response and distribution.

There seems to be a growing wave of arrogant disregard for the citizens who Constitutionally are entitled to be heard and considered in the actions of their elected officials. John Carter is notable for arrogantly refusing to interact in an equal manner with his constituents. Given that he is the person who actually put the deal together to convert this facility into its present, shameful use, once would think he owed it to the community to participate in the forum. And given that Judge Gattis is contractual administrator for T Don Hutto, it was not too much to expect him, as our elected representative, to participate.

We do certainly need some change.


Jim Dillon made a scene-several, actually, in his repeated attempts to ignore the rules and demand that his questions be asked, even though several of them were totally off-base. It is a shame that he pretends to be a Democrat; I told him he lost votes each time he made a public appearance because people think he’s a nut. (We had some “interaction” during the forum as a result of his interruptions.)

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